January 31, 2007

AP Re-Enters Hurriyah; Is Unable to Find Lost Credibility

I received an email from Linda Wagner of the Associated Press late this afternoon, alerting me that AP has posted a pair of new news reports by Sally Buzbee about Hurriyah, and that Wagner herself has issued forth a new statement. All three are available at the following link:

As Linda was nice enough to contact me directly, we'll start with her statement first:



From Linda Wagner
Director of Media Relations & Public Affairs
The Associated Press

All news organizations covering the war in Iraq have faced a severe security situation since the conflict began. The risks have risen dramatically in recent months as sectarian conflicts have escalated.

Some have criticized APís use of anonymous sources and its refusal to identify by name all AP staff members who have contributed to reporting about violent incidents in the Hurriyah district of Baghdad.

AP has already lost four staff members killed in Iraq. Upon the death earlier this month of the most recent AP staff member killed there, AP President and CEO Tom Curley said, "The situation for our journalists in Iraq is unprecedented in AP's 161-year history of covering wars and conflicts. The courage of our Iraqi colleagues and their dedication to the story stand as an example to the world of journalism's enduring value."

Without protecting the identities of many of its sources and staff members from the extraordinary dangers in Iraq, it is impossible to provide news coverage of many events in the violent conflict about which the public has the right to know.

APís use of anonymous sources and unnamed staff members adheres to its ethics and journalism guidelines, which are among the most thorough and strict in the news media profession.

You can see APís ethics and journalism guidelines from the home page of -- click on this link at the top right : The AP Statement Of News Values and Principles. (direct URL:

You can learn more about APís concern for the publicís right to know about the war in Iraq and many other public issues by visiting another link from its home page: AP and the People's Right to Know. (direct URL:

Iraq is indeed a dangerous place, both for it's residents, and for those attempting to cover the war for news organizations. In 2006 alone, 32 journalists died.

It has been a long-standing journalistic tradition to have anonymity to when naming the journalist or the source might place their lives in danger. All of this is understood.

But Wagner's release flatly dodges the elephant in the room, the Iraqi police source hiding behind the pseudonym Jamil Hussein. It is quite clear that using an undeclared* pseudonym is a serious breach of journalistic ethics.

As perhaps a few of you may be aware, Associates Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll has officially maintained, for over two months now, that the AP's primary source for it's Hurriyah reporting has been a man she insists is Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein. We know, however, that Jamil Hussein is not his real name, according Iraqi Interior Ministry personnel records, as provided to this blogger and others via CPATT and Multinational Corps-Iraq/Joint Operations Command Public Affairs.

Wagner has been contacted multiple times to explain this discrepancy, and others. To date, she has refused to address the issue of the pseudonym. For that matter, sheís refused to answer almost all questions about Hurriyah, or problems with APís stringer-based reporting methodology, so this does fit a pattern.

And now to the news, brought to you by Sally Buzbee, AP's chief of Middle East News.

The leading story, "Mosques still show damage from attacks in Hurriyah" has been covered extensively by Bryan Preston, Michelle Malkin and Curt at Flopping Aces. I have very little to add, except this: it is very interesting that of the four mosques "burned and blew up," this new AP account does not speak of any apparent fire damage at either the al-Muhaimin mosque or al-Qaqaqa mosque.

The relative intactness of the al-Muhaimin mosque is quite important, as AP's reporting claimed that 18 people, including women and children burned to death in an "inferno" during the November 24 attacks.

This picture captures worshipers in al-Muhaimin the very next day.


Soot and corpse free. The claim is apparenty a complete falsehood.

al-Qaqaqa? I'll let AP tell it:

The fourth mosque named in the AP's original report, the al-Qaqaqa mosque, also known as the al-Meshaheda mosque, has a broken window and is closed, guarded by Iraqi army troops outside and adorned with a picture of al-Sadr's father. It also has Mahdi Army graffiti scrawled on its side, partially whitewashed over but still readable.

A broken window and graffiti. By that standard, several apartment buildings I've lived in have been "burned and blew up."

Buzbee's second article, which focuses more fully on the transition of Hurriyah from a mixed neighborhood to one populated almost entirely by Shiites and run by Madhi Army militiamen, is a very well-written article, perhaps the most informative article on life in these neighborhoods after it has been overrun that I've seen thus far.

That said, when the subject of the November 24 attacks came up, the reporting just. gets. weird.

The fighting included a Nov. 24 attack by Mahdi Army militiamen on a number of Sunni mosques. At one, the AP reported -- based on statements of residents, a local Sunni sheik and a police officer -- six men were doused with fuel and burned alive by Shiite militiamen.

Getting vague on the number of mosques... interesting. That broken window must be bothering them.

As for the witnesses, they've suddenly reversed their order of importance. Originally, Jamil Hussein was the primary source, with Sunni elder Imad al-Hashimi playing a supporting role. The accounts from anonymous residents were added in follow-up stories.

Now, the anonymous residents are suddenly more important Why? The "Sunni sheik" Imad al-Hashimi has renounced his statement. Funny how they neglected to mention that. As for the police officer, I doubt many will forget the name of their primary source for dozens of stories leading up to this one. Hiding the name of Jamil Hussein simply seems duplicitous at this point.

And so, a statement and two stories later, the following questions still remain purposefully ignored and unresolved:

Do Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll and International Editor John Daniszewski intend to stand behind the AP-reported claim that 18 people died in an "inferno" at the al-Muhaimin mosque?

Do Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll and International Editor John Daniszewski intend to stand behind the AP-reported claim that 6 men were pulled from the al-Mustafa mosque and immolated?

Whatever happened to the claim by AP that AP Television captured videotaped footage of the al Mustafa mosque after the attack? Why has (to the best of my knowledge) that film never been made public?

Do Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll and International Editor John Daniszewski intend to stand behind the AP-reported claims that the four mosques "burned and blew up"?

Does the AP intend to issue any corrections or retractions based upon new evidence showing that the initial claims were over-exaggerated and inaccurate?

Does the AP feel it was responsible to refer to the Association of Muslim Scholars and an "influential" Sunni group, without revealing the fact that they are a radical Sunni group affiliated with the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda that reputedly derives their income from kidnapping?

The Associated Press has not used Jamil "Hussein" as a source since the Hurriyah stories became contentious. Why has the Associated Press quit using him as a source?

Did Associated Press reporters in Baghdad ever question why "Hussein" was able to provide accounts far outside of his jurisdiction?

As more time goes by and the Associated Press story continues to founder, it appears more and more that their emphasis has changed from credible journalism to corporate damage control.

*added later. Following the link would have made it clear that an undeclared pseudonym, that is, a pseudonym that the author fails to identify as such, is unethical.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 31, 2007 09:46 PM

I assume you've seen this Channel 4 documentary on the danger and difficulty of reporting outside the green zone, but just in case (your spaminator won't allow the "G"-word, so replace the ** in the following url with "oo"):

It's called "Iraq: The Hidden Story", and it is 49 minutes long. I don't see how you can watch it and not "get it".

Posted by: LGFtard at January 31, 2007 11:21 PM

Okay, hold on a second. Al-Muhaimin is a Sunni mosque, yes?

So why does this picture show men and women praying together?

Posted by: Sadly, No! Research Labs at February 1, 2007 01:15 AM

Please remind me of the meta-message behind this whole "scandal". The liberal MSM is emphasizing the violence going on in Iraq, instead of the many schools being painted and the flowers being thrown before the treads of our M113 Armored Personnel Carriers? Is that the point?

Posted by: Pennypacker at February 1, 2007 01:34 AM

Please remind me of the meta-message behind this whole "scandal".

The "meta-message" is that you shouldn't just make stuff up regardless of how good or bad the situation is. Journalism should aim to be truthful and accurate, not "fake but accurate."

Posted by: mike at February 1, 2007 08:31 AM

" provided to this blogger and others via CPATT and Multinational Corps-Iraq/Joint Operations Command Public Affairs."

And of course we know that the military never lies.
**cough** Pat Tillman **cough** **cough**

Posted by: The Venerable Ed at February 2, 2007 06:21 AM